10 Jun 2024, 17:13

India hunts Kashmir militants after Hindu pilgrim attack

SRINAGAR, India, June 10, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Soldiers in India-administered

Kashmir carried out a large-scale manhunt on Monday, the government said, a
day after nine Hindu pilgrims were killed in one of the deadliest attacks on
civilians for years.

Around an hour before Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi was
sworn in for a third term in the capital New Delhi on Sunday evening, gunmen
in Kashmir ambushed the bus packed with Hindu pilgrims celebrating after
visiting a popular shrine.

Police said Monday the attackers fired on the bus hitting the driver and
three others, before it swerved off the mountain road into a ravine, killing
nine including a child.

Dozens were also wounded.

"Three of those injured and the driver who died had bullet injuries," police
officer Mohita Sharma told AFP, adding investigations continued.

Special forces and police officers were searching the Reasi area in the south
of the disputed territory, deploying drones to scan the forested area from

Officials said India's anti-terrorism task force, the National Investigation
Agency, has also started probing the incident.

Kashmir's top political official Manoj Sinha said a joint operation was "in
progress to neutralise the perpetrators" who carried out the attack,
announcing $12,000 in compensation for each of the families of those killed.

Top government official Amit Shah -- interior minister in the previous
government, and who took the oath of office shortly after Modi -- warned that
the gunmen would "face the wrath of the law".

"The culprits of this dastardly attack will not be spared," Shah said on
social media late Sunday.

- 'Shameful' -
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence
in 1947, and both claim the high-altitude territory in full.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence or a
merger with Pakistan.

The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and rebels

Violence and anti-India protests have drastically fallen since 2019, when
Modi's government cancelled the region's limited autonomy.
But since then rebel groups have targeted Indians from outside the disputed
territory and killed several.

Sunday's attack was the first on Hindu pilgrims in the Muslim-majority region
since 2017, when seven were killed when gunmen opened fire on their bus in
the Kashmir valley.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called the attack "shameful" in a post on
social media, saying that it revealed the "true picture of the worrying
security situation in Jammu and Kashmir".

Five rebels and an Indian air force corporal were killed in clashes since
election campaigning began in the territory in April, until voting ended this

Two suspected rebels were also killed in a firefight with soldiers on June 3.

But the vote saw a 58.6 percent turnout, according to the election
commission, a 30-percentage-point jump from the last vote in 2019 and the
highest in 35 years.

No separatist group called for a boycott of the election -- a first since the
armed revolt against Indian rule erupted in the territory in 1989.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting and arming the rebels, a
charge Islamabad denies.




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